Well­ness on the Wa­ter

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - BY ALI­SON ROBERTS-TSE

From an­cient Ro­man baths in min­eral-rich hot spring wa­ter to the 19th-cen­tury French sea­wa­ter soaks for

tha­las­sother­apy, hu­mans have his­tor­i­cally treated wa­ter as a heal­ing el­e­ment. Not all of these ther­a­pies re­quire sub­merg­ing into wa­ter. Some mod­ern well­ness prac­tices take place at the wa­ter’s sur­face. The two unique heal­ing modal­i­ties of flota­tion ther­apy and watsu ex­plore well­ness on the wa­ter.


Flota­tion ther­apy takes place in spe­cial tanks filled with 10 inches of high-salin­ity wa­ter. In­fused with 850-1,000 pounds of Ep­som salt, the wa­ter within a float tank “is more buoy­ant than the Dead Sea,” ex­plains Julie Meer of Cloud9 Float & Spa in Naples. All bod­ies ef­fort­lessly float on the high-salin­ity sur­face, which gen­tly and nat­u­rally re­aligns the body and re­leases ten­sion.

The phys­i­cal ben­e­fits of float­ing are many. Flota­tion ses­sions can in­crease cir­cu­la­tion, de­crease in­flam­ma­tion and lessen joint pain, ac­cord­ing to Guillermo Fer­nandez, who founded the Float & Flour­ish Cen­ter in Bonita Springs. These ben­e­fits are at­trib­uted to the mag­ne­sium sul­fate, more com­monly known as Ep­som salt, which the body ab­sorbs dur­ing flota­tion. Fer­nandez enu­mer­ates ad­di­tional perks, such as height­ened en­ergy lev­els and im­proved sleep, be­fore declar­ing one hour of flota­tion as rest­ful as four hours of sleep.

Float ses­sions in sen­sory-de­pri­va­tion tanks also nur­ture men­tal well-be­ing. Al­though many tanks in­clude light and mu­sic op­tions, some prac­ti­tion­ers opt to en­close them­selves in the reser­voir with­out light, sound and dis­trac­tions. With­out ex­ter­nal stim­uli, the mind takes cen­ter stage and “the brain al­lows more creative thoughts to flow,” says Meer. Dur­ing this deep state of re­lax­ation and men­tal clar­ity, emo­tional anx­i­ety dis­si­pates. These pos­i­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal re­ac­tions beckon ath­letes and med­i­ta­tion prac­ti­tion­ers alike to float reg­u­larly.

Un­der­stand­ably, float­ing solo in a dark, cof­fin-sized space to ex­plore the re­cesses of the mind may sound daunt­ing. A brief in­tro­duc­tion to the fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing tank con­trols and flota­tion sup­port de­vices for the neck, in­spires con­fi­dence. Af­ter a quick shower, slip­ping into the warm, body-tem­per­a­ture wa­ter, silken with Ep­som salt, is quite pleas­ant. Sur­ren­der­ing to grav­ity may prove chal­leng­ing, but deep breaths en­cour­age the body to re­lax.

Wor­ries of claus­tro­pho­bia quickly fall away. With the lid closed and lights out, af­ter a few min­utes, you iron­i­cally feel like you’re float­ing in an in­fi­nite space. As Fer­nandez ex­plains, you lose your sense of ori­en­ta­tion af­ter 30-45 min­utes of float­ing. Even though you float face up, you may feel like you are hov­er­ing above the earth’s at­mos­phere, peer­ing down­ward. The feel­ing of lev­ity and weight­less­ness spreads through­out the en­tire body. Ses­sions fin­ish when the UV- and ozone-pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems kick in, but Fer­nandez sug­gests re­cu­per­at­ing at the oxy­gen bar be­fore head­ing back to ev­ery­day life.


Watsu is a port­man­teau, or com­bined word, of wa­ter and shi­atsu. Watsu prac­ti­tion­ers help pa­tients float and gen­tly ma­nip­u­late their bod­ies on the sur­face of a shal­low pool. Typ­i­cal hour-long ses­sions com­bine shi­atsu mas­sage and stretch­ing to re­lax the body on wa­ter heated to 94-98 de­grees Fahren­heit. Watsu is a unique treat­ment be­cause “the stretch­ing that the prac­ti­tioner fa­cil­i­tates is not pos­si­ble in land-based modal­i­ties,” claims Mon­ica Card­well, a WABA (World­wide Aquatic Body­work As­so­ci­a­tion)-cer­ti­fied watsu prac­ti­tioner in the Naples and Bonita Springs area.

Like flota­tion ther­apy, watsu im­proves both phys­i­cal and men­tal health. “Clin­i­cal stud­ies … have shown watsu to be an ef­fec­tive treat­ment for those who suf­fer from arthri­tis, fi­bromyal­gia, MS and many other neu­ro­log­i­cal mal­adies,” cites Card­well. Dur­ing stress­re­liev­ing watsu ses­sions, the breath and heart rates nat­u­rally slow as the body yields to the prac­ti­tioner and the wa­ter. The guided ex­pe­ri­ence is in­tensely calm­ing and, Card­well ex­plains, “Watsu brings pro­found in­sights and a con­nec­tion to the

Float ses­sions in sen­sory-de­pri­va­tion tanks also nur­ture men­tal well-be­ing. Al­though many tanks in­clude light and mu­sic op­tions, some prac­ti­tion­ers opt to en­close them­selves in the reser­voir with­out light, sound and dis­trac­tions.

body [like] no other modal­ity.”

Through­out a watsu ses­sion, the prac­ti­tioner sup­ports the pa­tient’s body so that the pa­tient can sim­ply re­lax. The face never dips be­low the sur­face of the wa­ter, which means that even peo­ple who do not swim can en­joy the gen­tle ex­pe­ri­ence. Pa­tients, how­ever, must trust the prac­ti­tioner to hold their body cor­rectly and to de­liver ben­e­fi­cial stretch­ing and mas­sage.

Card­well ex­plains that her role is to “fa­cil­i­tate the [heal­ing] ex­pe­ri­ence with ed­u­cated and ex­pe­ri­enced hands and [to ap­ply her knowl­edge of] body me­chan­ics.” Card­well’s ef­forts are re­warded by the trust of her pa­tients, which al­lows her to help them ex­pe­ri­ence the “buoy­ancy and free­dom that the wa­ter af­fords.” While some clients re­ceive only oc­ca­sional treat­ments, oth­ers rel­ish the lib­er­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence weekly.

Whether float­ing in an iso­la­tion tank or in the arms of a watsu prac­ti­tioner, heal­ing can take place on the hori­zon, where wa­ter meets the air.

A prac­ti­tioner of flota­tion ther­apy is sus­pended on the sur­face of high-salin­ity wa­ter, more buoy­ant than the Dead Sea, in an iso­la­tion tank at the Float & Flour­ish Cen­ter in Bonita Springs.

As they en­ter the flota­tion tank, par­tic­i­pants at Cloud9 Float & Spa are greeted by the San­skrit word samadhi, which refers to a deep med­i­ta­tive state.

Watsu prac­ti­tioner Mi­nakshi sup­ports her client in the wa­ter as she in­cor­po­rates el­e­ments of shi­atsu mas­sage into each ses­sion.

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